It’s no secret that I’ve always considered myself lucky for the family I was born into. Early
in their marriage, my parents made the selfless decision to split their shifts so that someone was always home to take care of their children. My dad went to work in the afternoons, sacrificing his family dinners, after school activities, and week nights at home. For many years, the only time we had together as a family were Saturdays, or family vacations. Saturday night dinners became an important aspect of our weekly routine, even now, we try to eat together on as many Saturday nights as possible. At the age of 31, I still find myself grateful for every time my entire family can get together, I’ve learned over the years to appreciate those moments. There’s only four of us, five with Justin, but getting five grown adults together on a regular basis can be challenging. Somehow we manage to do it, as often as possible.
Last week Justin, Bruno, and I spent the week with my parents on vacation in the Upper Peninsula. This is the third time that we have joined my parents on their annual trek up north, it’s funny how different a vacation with your family is when you’re an adult. Vacation is more relaxing as an adult, thinking back on vacations we took as a kid, I can’t imagine my parents got much relaxing done at all. I suppose that’s part of being a parent.
Today is my father’s sixty-second birthday. Just like my mother, he is not one for celebrations, gifts, or attention on his birthday. So here I go again, throwing my unsuspecting parent into the center of my world for the day – Sorry, Dad! It’s your birthday and we’re going to celebrate, dammit!
On a daily basis, I catch myself saying, doing, or responding to something that automatically reminds me of my father. It usually is followed with a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. My mom and sister have even started calling me Doug when the occasion calls for it. I take it as a compliment. Easily, the funniest person I know, my dad has always found a way to find the laughter in any situation. He has this crazy, dry, sense of humor that just whips out of nowhere. As a kid, and let’s face it, as an adult, I always take pride in making my dad laugh. If the funny man laughs at your jokes you must be pretty darn funny yourself.
I was a daddy’s girl growing up, looking up to my father and seeking his approval in everything I did, that hasn’t changed much. When I have a problem, need advice, or someone to tell me how to do something, he is always my first call. I, without a doubt, got my logistical nature from him. I want to know how things work, why it work that way, and want to explain to you why it’s important that you understand it. Those traits have been imperative to my success in my career, they are strengths that other people point out to me. My first reaction is to tell them that I get it from my Dad.
Surrounded by girls for most of his adult life, my dad embraced his role as the father of daughters. He taught us to be strong, knowledgeable, careful, and independent. He strapped us with hockey gear and shot hockey pucks at us. I had to read the entire manual of my car before leaving the driveway for the first time and had to show him how to change a tire. By the age of three, my favorite smell was that of the garage. It smelled like oil, cars, tools, and the lawn mower – it reminded me of hanging out with my Dad. When I came home from Kindergarten every day, he made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and my friend, then watched David the Gnome with us before getting ready for work. He taught me how to fish, how to appreciate a quiet moment, and how to use a computer. He also sat through endless dance recitals, dressed up with princess crowns, played Barbies, has sat through Dirty Dancing a million times, watched his house get taken over by teenage girls, let me paint stars on the roof of my first car, and decorated the front yard after I came home from my last undergraduate class.
In what was one of the more emotional moments of my life, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, and handed me to Justin. I took his arm at the back of the church, shaking from nerves and heels on carpet. He calmed my down, made a few jokes, and held me up. When we got to the end of the aisle, he hugged and kissed me and it was one of two moments during the ceremony where I had to struggle to keep it together. Him letting me go was like a symbolic transition into adulthood, I was excited but terrified. What I didn’t really realize at the time is that your parents never really stop being your parents. They will always be the people that I turn to when I need advice or to be pointed in the right direction. My dad is always the first person to check on me when he knows I might be having a rough day, sometimes, even through tears I’ll laugh when I see his name on my caller ID because I know he’s calling just to say hi and make sure I’m alright. Always ending the call with “Love you”.
I’m proud to catch myself saying and doing things that remind me of my father, he is one of the best people I know, willing to do anything for his family and the people he loves. He has been endlessly supportive of both my sister and I as we figure out life and I know I’ll never stop needing his advice and stamp of approval.
Happy birthday, Dad! I love you and hope you were able to do something fun today!